Mkhaya Game Reserve Safari Guide

safarigo   Swaziland  

Mkhaya is Swaziland’s top private reserve. Self-drive is not allowed; excellent guides take guests around in open safari vehicles instead, and walks are offered as well. Visitors may have the opportunity to track both white and black rhino. There is a good variety of wildlife (though no lions) and luxury accommodation.

Pros & Cons

Sanctuary for endangered species
Good place to see black rhino
Well-run private reserve with excellent guides
Open-vehicle drives and walking safaris offered
Excellent safari lodge offering a great bush experience
Safari animals are kept in separate enclosures
Big cats aren’t seen
Small game-drive circuit
Lack of wilderness appeal
No self-drive allowed
Only one expensive lodge

Wildlife & Animals

With animals kept in large enclosures, sightings of key species are likely. White rhinos are plentiful, and the endangered black rhino is the top attraction. Elephant, hippo, giraffe, zebra and other key safari animals are all present, as well as the only buffalo in the country. Some interesting antelope species include the rare sable and roan antelope, tsessebe and eland.

Wildlife Highlights

The camp is laid out in a riverine forest, along a dry riverbed. Because of this unique location, a lot of small mammals that thrive in this habitat have become quite habituated and can often be seen in camp. These include warthog, nyala, the very rare suni antelope, as well as grey and red duiker.


Mkhaya is home to over 140 bird species. The forested rivers provide habitat for seven species of robin-chat and scrub-robin, purple-crested turaco, Narina trogon, green- and pink-throated twinspots and eastern nicator. The woodland area supports tchagras, woodland kingfishers, drongos and shrikes, along with a healthy population of nesting vultures. A real treat are the habituated crested guineafowls, which are regular visitors to the camp. Migratory birds are present from November to April.

Best Time to Visit

Wildlife viewing is good throughout the year. Especially since some animals are kept in large drive-through enclosures. Traditionally, the best wildlife viewing is during the dry winter months from May to September. At this time, animals congregate around rivers and waterholes. The wettest months, from November to February, are less ideal as the rain might interfere with your afternoon safari, and it tends to be very hot and humid.

May to September – Dry Season

Wildlife viewing is at its best
Cloudless skies and no rain
Moderate daytime temperatures and low humidity
Very dry and dusty
Warm clothing is required for early morning game drives

October to April – Wet Season

Scenery is green and fresh
Wildlife viewing is still good
There are a lot of baby animals
Birding is very good with migratory birds in the park
Dry season wildlife viewing is better
Middle of the day is hot and humid

Weather & Climate

Winter and summer in Mkhaya, which correspond to the Dry and Wet seasons respectively, are at the opposite times as Europe and North America. The wet summer months (October to April) are hot and humid. It’s rather mild during the dry winters (May to September). Warm clothing is recommended for morning and evening game drives.

Dry Season – May to September – Winter

Winter is very dry and the humidity is very low. As water becomes scarce in the bush, animals are found at permanent water sources.

May – May marks the end of summer. In this transitional month, mornings typically experience cooler temperatures of around 12°C/54°F and it gets up to about 26°C/79°F in the afternoon.
June, July & August – With an average early temperature of 10°C/50°F, conditions are chilly indeed on morning game drives in open vehicles; pack warm clothing. Sunny conditions prevail in the afternoons, with a delightful average of 25°C/77°F.
September – Temperatures during the day peak at around 28°C/82°F in the afternoon. Relief from very dry conditions arrives with the first rains. Mornings are warming up, with temperatures hovering around 15°C/59°F.

Wet Season – October to April – Summer

Summer tends to be hot and humid. Average temperatures can reach 30°C/86°F with uncomfortably high humidity. Peak temperatures, however, frequently spike at over 40°C/104°F. Afternoon storms bring relief but it rarely rains all day.

October & November – Conditions get warmer and the rainfall is more frequent, generally in the afternoon. Temperatures are between 18°C/64°F in the morning and 30°C/86°F in the afternoon.
December, January & February – Torrential downpours, high humidity...these three months are the wettest and hottest time of year. Afternoon temperatures typically hover around 31°C/88°F but can easily rise to an energy-sapping 40°C/104°F.
March & April – There is less rainfall and it’s getting colder. April has lovely clear weather. Nighttime is getting cooler with better sleeping conditions at about 18°C/64°F. The humidity falls and during the day temperatures of about 29°C/84°F are norm

Getting There

Much of Swaziland is surrounded by South Africa, although it shares an eastern border with Mozambique. Visitors usually drop into Mkhaya as part of a larger South African tour. The good road network makes self-drive an attractive option.

Most people visiting Mkhaya arrive at O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) near Johannesburg, South Africa.

It’s easy to hire a car in Johannesburg and visit Mkhaya as a self-drive tourist. It’s about 450km/280mi between Johannesburg and Mkhaya, and takes about five hours to drive.

It’s also an option to fly from Johannesburg to King Mswati III International Airport (SHO) in Manzini, hire a car and drive to Mkhaya. The drive is about 60km/37mi and takes about one hour.